Caregiver, elderly person

Although guardians often provide a valuable and essential service for Americans in need of support, abusive practices toward the elderly are all too common, according to witnesses who spoke at a Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing Wednesday.

Speakers noted that financial abuses are especially devastating, as they can mean that a victim’s life savings and assets are liquidated for another’s personal benefit. An extreme example is Grace Watanabe, a 97-year old with dementia. Staff at the Chicago senior living community where she lived systematically drained her bank account, according to published report. They did this by cashing checks, transferring funds online and ATM withdrawals.

The testimony complemented a report released at the hearing that calls for new safeguards that prevent abuse, neglect and exploitation. The study is based on a year-long investigation.

Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the committee, announced Wednesday that they soon will introduce the Guardianship Accountability Act. The measure would promote information-sharing among courts and local organizations as well as state and federal entities. It also would encourage the use of background checks and less restrictive alternatives to guardianship, and expand the availability of federal grants to improve the guardianship system.

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